Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Life Project, and home children.

There's an interesting video presentation on the LSE YouTube channel by science writer Dr Helen Pearson on The Life Project which is also the title of her book. It discusses a series of UK cohort studies started in 1946 which is the longest-running study of human development in the world, and has grown to encompass six generations of children and over 70,000 people.
An important if unsurprising finding is that children born into disadvantage have tended to follow more difficult life trajectories. They've been more likely to struggle in school, more likely to suffer poorer health, and to earn less later on. It's true of children born in 1946 and it's true of children born at the turn of the millennium as well. The circumstances we're born into seem to have a profound influence on the rest of our lives. People born into disadvantage in the earliest cohort are more likely to have died by now and to suffer various diseases.
A finding that interested me, because it is perhaps relevant to the situation of home children, is that not everyone born in difficult circumstances ends up in them. For children born in the 1958 cohort, in the most difficult circumstances of all, the studies examined those who had succeeded nevertheless. They found factors which led to this success were: children who had interested engaged parents ambitious for their children's future; having an interesting, engaged, ambitious school behind the child; living in a location where there were jobs; and motivation of the child him or herself although that alone was not enough.
For home children many were not in a situation where they had the benefit of supportive parents. The emigration agency provided a path out of that difficult situation. Canada offered lots of job opportunities. While too many were still not able to succeed these studies suggest their chances were greater.


Anonymous said...

I just finished that book a few weeks ago. Fascinating. How people overcame what seems to be planned for them is life affirming. Cheers.

Gail B said...

Recently a book club to which I belong dicussed a novel based on 'Orphan Trains' in the U.S., much like the Home Children in Canada. We also discussed the painful, often impoverished lives so many Canadian emigres had endured, and that, when they overcame this, they were 'the salt of the earth' ancestors we all deserve. Interesting thesis. Thanks for this, John.